I wrote a post awhile back that generated a lot of controversy. It was about women who sold the rest of us out in order to have a special place amongst the dudes of any specific movement or group. I wish that I had a better name than Gender Traitor at the time, but that is what stuck. I think "Gender Token" may be a better term to use in the future. The examples I could give were usually smaller groups and therefore hard to cite, but thankfully the sexism problem in skepticism has made a big public example available for you, the reader.
Some background: there is a problem with sexism in skepticism. One woman even made a blog to complete the (thankless) task of educating men on how to stop being sexist and include more women in skepticism. A lot has been written on the problem by prominent people within skepticism, although the most famous/powerful in skepticism have not taken it so seriously. Richard Dawkin's reaction to sexism in our community is still fresh in the minds of many, and so is the unapologetic sexism of the late christopher hitchens.
This time a new skeptic celebrity is displaying his true colors: Magician Penn Jillette. He's a chest thumping porn and prostitution supporter, which falls in line with his ron paul supporting libertarian bullshit. He is famous for a non-magic tv show where he tells everyone his opinion (how they got people to pay to watch a dude to yell opinions is beyond me, plenty of dudes seem to do it for free even when asked to stop). I remember an episode about prostitution that concluded industrializing (legalizing) it was for the benefit of everyone, while avoiding talking about the typical experience of a prostitute (starting prostitution before turning 18, being abused as children, having little other resources, drug addiction, pimping, etc) at all costs. Even when I happen to agree with something on their show, I find that they support it with the weakest possible argument available, and there are always telling omissions from the opposition. He cannot seem to reason his way out of a paper bag, and I have concluded that his popularity in skepticism is a result of him parroting the existing party line rather than having anything to contribute to it.
Anyway, as of January 2nd, you can add "condescending head patter"to Jillette's resume as a sexist piece of shit. He doled out a head pat to a woman who wrote an open letter about how she doesn't mind all the sexist behavior in the skeptic movement, so dudes shouldn't fret over their behavior too much. The dudes seem to be reading: She likes it, why can't you? When other women called out Jillette on his sexist behavior he simply told them that they were wrong, and didn't engage in any more conversation beyond that. Malorie Nasrallah authored the patriarchy affirming screed, and in the aftermath seems to be incapable of understanding how her letter will be perceived as a thumbs up to rape culture fans everywhere. I am not going to go into detail about the content of the letter, others have done a wonderful job of this already, and its specific claims are in sync with the article I previously wrote about this social dynamic.
I wonder if Malorie understands that countless men have written the same opinion piece as she had, but weren't given any special recognition from above for reinforcing the status quo. The reason Jillette and his ilk think the letter is so great is that they don't have to think hard about what other women are saying if they listen to the one woman willing to say that there isn't a problem at all. They can still say they listen to women, and I suppose technically they do, but only if women are saying what men want to hear.
What becomes of the sexism problem if we listen to Malorie, and the men who agree with her? The problem becomes the attitude of women, the nerve they have to speak up about it. The problem becomes an invention, imaginary, ridiculous. That mindset can be extremely appealing to men who may otherwise have to feel bad about how they have behaved in the past. It is an easy out for those who lack integrity, or who want their dominance over women (as a class) to continue. Jillette most definitely falls into the second group (not that they are mutually exclusive), having spent a lot of time defending the idea that his money entitles him to the bodies of women, expressing pleasure in being a "harmless" john.
Malorie Nasrallah is just a woman sharing an opinion. The way that men have exploited that for personal gain is where the real ugliness lies. Mallorie will figure out what it means to be a woman in patriarchy eventually (or at least suffer for it in some way), but the Penn Jillette's of the world can go their whole lives without understanding what their behavior does to women or feeling one quantum of shame over it. Men like that need to be the focus of our most biting criticism. There are countless opinion pieces out there about sexism in skepticism, but (to my knowledge) the highest level of recognition afforded to pieces critical of sexism in skepticism is a link on scienceblogs. Pieces that are critical of women who write pieces critical on sexism seem to get more attention from internationally known people like Jillette and Dawkins. It is easy for anyone to criticize other communities (like islamic communities or fundamentalist christian groups), but it takes no real moral conviction or integrity. I would like to ask why the men in skepticism who are so eager to promote the Malories of the world never seem to find a critique of sexism in their communities worth promoting. If more skeptics walked the walk, they would examine the actions of their leaders for bias and call them out on it, but I am not holding my breath.